Frampton was born in Beckenham, England. He first became interested in music when he was only seven years old. He discovered his grandmother's banjolele (a banjo-shaped ukulele) in the attic. Teaching himself to play, he became near-obsessed, and upon receiving a guitar and piano, from his parents, taught himself those instruments as well. At age eight he started taking classical music lessons.
Early influences were Cliff Richard & The Shadows (featuring guitarist Hank Marvin) and American rockers Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, and then the Ventures, Jimi Hendrix, and the Beatles. His father introduced him to Belgian gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.
By the age of ten, Frampton played in a band called The Little Ravens. Both he and David Bowie were pupils at Bromley Technical School where Frampton's father, Owen Frampton, was an art teacher and head of the Art department. The Little Ravens played on the same bill at school as Bowie's band, George and the Dragons. Peter and David would spend time together at lunch breaks, playing Buddy Holly songs.
At the age of 11, Peter was playing with a band called The Trubeats followed by a band called The Preachers, produced and managed by Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones.
He became a successful child singer, and in 1966, he became a member of The Herd. He was the lead guitarist and singer, scoring a handful of British teenybopper hits. Frampton was named "The Face of 1968" by teen magazine Rave.
In early 1969, when Frampton was 18 years old, he joined with Steve Marriott of The Small Faces to form Humble Pie.
While playing with Humble Pie, Frampton also did session recording with other artists, including: Harry Nilsson, Jim Price, Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as George Harrison's solo "All Things Must Pass", in 1970, and John Entwistle's "Whistle Rymes", in 1972. During the Harrison session he was introduced to the 'talk box' that has become "one" of his trademark guitar sounds.
After five albums with Humble Pie, Frampton left the band and went solo in 1971, just in time to see Rockin' The Fillmore rise up the US charts. He remained with Dee Anthony, the same personal manager that Humble Pie had used.
His debut was 1972's Wind of Change, with guest artists Ringo Starr and Billy Preston. This album was followed by Frampton's Camel in 1973, which featured Frampton working within a group project. In 1974, Frampton released Somethin's Happening. Frampton toured extensively to support his solo career, joined for three years by his former Herd mate Andy Bown on keyboards, Rick Wills on Bass, and American drummer John Siomos. In 1975, the Frampton album was released. The album went to #32 in the US charts, and is certified Gold by the RIAA.
Peter Frampton had little commercial success with his early albums. This changed with Frampton's breakthrough best-selling live album, Frampton Comes Alive!, in 1976. "Baby, I Love Your Way" and "Show Me the Way" were singles. "Do You Feel Like We Do", despite its length, was also popular. The latter two tracks also featured his use of the talk box guitar effect. The album was recorded in 1975 with essentially a new lineup Americans Bob Mayo on Keyboards and Rhythm Guitar and Stanley Sheldon on Bass (Wills was sacked by Frampton at the end of 1974, Bown leaving Frampton on the eve of "Frampton Comes Alive", to return to England and new fame with Status Quo), mainly at the Winterland Arena in San Francisco, California, where Humble Pie had previously enjoyed a good following. Released in early January, it debuted on the charts on 14 February at number 191. The album was on the Billboard 200 for 97 weeks, of which 55 were in the top 40, of which 10 were at the top. The album beat, among others, Fleetwood Mac's Fleetwood Mac to become the top selling album of 1976, and it was also the 14th best seller of 1977. With sales of 16 million copies it became the biggest selling live album, although with others subsequently selling more it is now the fourth biggest. Frampton Comes Alive! is 6 times platinum.
The success of Frampton Comes Alive! put him on the cover of Rolling Stone, in a famous shirtless photo by Francesco Scavullo. In interviews, Frampton has stated he regrets the photo because it changed his image as a credible artist into a teen idol.
In late 1976, he and manager Dee Anthony visited the White House at the invitation of Steve Ford, the president's son. The album put Frampton in a position to be offered, and then accept, a co-starring role with The Bee Gees in director Robert Stigwood's poorly received film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Frampton's career seemed to be falling as quickly as it had risen.
His following album, I'm in You (1977) contained the hit title single and went platinum, but fell well short of expectations compared to Frampton Comes Alive!.
In 1979, Frampton returned to the studio following a near-fatal vehicle accident, to record the album Where I Should Be. Among those contributing to the album were past band members Stanley Sheldon (bass), Bob Mayo (keyboards/guitar/vocals), Chad Cromwell (drums), and John Siomos (drums/vocals).
In 1980, his album Rise Up was released to promote his tour in Brazil. The album eventually turned into Breaking All the Rules, released the next year in 1981. These albums were the first he recorded almost completely live.
Frampton continued to record throughout the 1980s, although his albums generally met with little commercial success. However, he did achieve a brief, moderate comeback of sorts in 1986 with the release of his Premonition album, and the single "Lying," which became a big hit on the Mainstream Rock charts. Most notably, he also united with old friend David Bowie, and both worked together to make albums. Frampton played on Bowie's 1987 album Never Let Me Down and joined the Glass Spider world tour.
Looking for that band experience again after touring with Bowie, Frampton kept referencing Steve Marriott, and at the beginning of 1991 rejoined his old Humble Pie mate for some shows (Marriott's last English gigs) at the Half Moon in Putney, London. The chemistry was still there for a while, as both Frampton and Marriott laid down some tracks in L.A. and prepared to do a "Frampton-Marriott" tour. However, Marriott abruptly returned to England in April (some say he didn't want to do the Humble Pie thing, others claim he would have returned to play with Frampton) but he tragically died less than 24 hours after his return in a house fire. Broken up by Marriott's death, Frampton went off the road for a time, then reformed his old touring band with his old friends Mayo and John Regan (at least three songs, and possibly a fourth from the sadly ended Marriott-Frampton partnership were subsequently record; two ending up on Frampton's "Shine On" compilation, a third on his subsequent solo album.
In the late 1990s, he starred in an infomercial plugging the internationally successful eMedia Guitar Method, a piece of instructional software represented as an alternative to taking actual guitar lessons. He claimed in the infomercial that the software was the best way to learn guitar.
In 1994, Frampton wrote and released the album "Peter Frampton", the final version of which contained material recorded on Tascam cassette recorders. Originally released on the Relativity label, this record was re-released in 2000 by Legacy records, with 4 bonus tracks and additional notes by Peter.
In 1995, Frampton released Frampton Comes Alive! II which contained live versions of many of the songs from his 1980s and 1990s solo albums. Frampton Comes Alive! II was accompanied by a video release on DVD, recorded at The Fillmore Theatre on June 15, 1995.
Although there was a large amount of marketing for the album, it did not sell well. After Frampton Comes Alive! II, he recorded and toured with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings and Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band, where he and Jack Bruce performed a cover version of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love".
In 2003, Frampton released the album Now, and embarked on a tour with Styx to support it. He also toured with The Elms, and even appeared in 2006 on the Fox Broadcasting variety show Celebrity Duets, paired with Chris Jericho of WWE fame. They were the first pair voted out.
On 12 September 2006, Frampton released his newest album, an instrumental work titled Fingerprints. His band consists of drummer Shawn Fichter, guitarist Audley Freed, bassist John Regan (Frampton's life long best friend,), and keyboardist/guitarist Rob Arthur, and guest artists such as members of Pearl Jam, Hank Marvin, and his bassist on Frampton Comes Alive!, Stanley Sheldon - the only member of the backing band on that album still alive.
On 11 February 2007, Fingerprints was awarded the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album. In February 2007, he also appeared on the Chicago based PBS television show Soundstage.
Frampton is currently working on a brand new album entitled Thank You Mr Churchill, the album will be released in 27 April 2010.